Fraser Dingwall admitted that he could barely believe how quickly momentum shifted away from Northampton Saints during a 45-39 loss against Saracens on Sunday.
For most of the afternoon at the StoneX Stadium, it looked as though it was going to be a memorable afternoon for Saints and their stand-in captain in particular against the Gallagher Premiership leaders.
Dingwall had not scored a try this season before the trip to Barnet, but crossed for a hat-trick as Saints opened up a 39-17 lead having produced their strongest performance of the season to that point.
However, a couple of yellow cards and a loss of defensive discipline from the visitors led to Sarries fighting from a long way back and eventually snatching the win for themselves through Elliot Daly’s late score.
Dingwall said: “Momentum is massive in this sport at the moment, and it just shows that things can turn really quickly and when they do, you’ve got to wrestle it back because otherwise teams – especially teams as good as Sarries – can put their game on top of you really, really quickly.
“Unfortunately, our yellow cards came at terrible times where they were in the ascendency.
“Doubled up with the fact we’d just lost a man, it made it difficult for us to get ourselves back into the game.”
The start of Saracens’ comeback coincided with Saints losing Lukhan Salakaia-Loto to a yellow card for a high tackle on Theo Dan in the 55th minute, not long after Courtnall Skosan’s try had extended their lead to 22 points.
Salakaia-Loto’s teammates then made a succession of errors in his absence as the hosts scored twice with a one-man advantage to put the outcome back in the balance.
Saints were then made to finish the match with 14 men after scrum-half Tom James was sin-binned for what was adjudged to be a high shot on Tom Howe, with his side still 39-31 ahead, but unable to hold out.
“It [Salakaia-Loto’s yellow] was just after we had scored and then looking to kick on again,” said Dingwall. “So it came at the worst time possible – you’ve got to give credit to Saracens because they are a very good team and when they get momentum, that’s what they live off.
“They live off getting a roll on teams, and that’s what they did to us.
“It’s just really frustrating because we felt we had pretty much beaten them and if we could close out the game, we’d have beaten a team who are unbeaten in the league so far.
“It’s just another example of how good we are, we’ve just got to realise it a bit more.”
Saints were able to hit top form for 55 minutes up to Skosan’s try, arguably their best period of rugby of the season so far, and Dingwall was the main beneficiary as he crossed the whitewash three times.
Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, this week’s post-match analysis won’t be focused on how he opened his try-scoring account for the campaign, but on how a seemingly unassailable position was allowed to slip away.
“It’s the first time I’ve scored this season and to then get three and then lose is all just a bit up and down,” Dingwall added.
“I can’t believe it; it’s my first hat-trick ever, and we lost the game, so it’s heart-breaking.”